Training a dog to do tricks and stay off the couch is all about respect and dog trainer Boysie Punnett, 59, knows how to teach it.

Punnett is the founder of Mellow Vibes Irie Dog Training in Toronto’s Roncesvalles neighbourhood where he teaches the furry friends how to respect human beings’ commands.

Born in Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Punnett lived on a farm where he learned to love all animals, as well as train dogs to be contributing members of the farm by hunting scavengers and protecting the farm from invaders.

Like most animals, dogs will behave with only as much restraint as they are taught to, so letting your dog run amok is not a good idea, Punnett says.

“Most dogs like to steal because they have no respect for their owners. When you have a dog jumping on your bed, when he takes your food whenever he wants, he ain’t no dog,” Punnett said.

When he first came to Canada, Punnett was surprised at how owners treated their dogs compared to back home, letting them run wild while feeding them foods laden with chemicals.

“My dogs eat what I eat because in the Caribbean that’s how we do it. We cook food for our dogs,” Punnett said.

He recommends people who are interested in training dogs need to find a good mentor first and they should leave their preconceptions about dogs at the pet store. Training a dog well starts with understanding who the boss is.

“You have to know how firm to be with every dog. The first thing to remember is that it’s a dog. It’s not a human being. You shouldn’t treat it like a baby — you should treat it like a dog. It’s all about respect,” Punnett said.

Rather than using chains and leashes, Punnett prefers a gentler, non-coercive form of training because he believes it’s more effective in the long run. He uses things like tambourines and verbal commands to signal to a dog when something is forbidden and over repeated exposure to jarring noise, a process Punnett jokingly calls “freaking out”, he trains the dog to think before he misbehaves or does something without an owner’s permission.

He says the best part about training dogs now is helping those dogs from difficult homes to learn to respect and enjoy human company again. “When I get a dog that has had a real unhappy life, it’s rewarding for me to bring that dog around from that state. Seeing those dogs turn around, that’s what gives me joy,” Punnett said.